Wednesday, December 31, 2003

No Way to Choose a President, by David Broder

Washington Post

"Something strange and important has happened to the system of picking presidential candidates. Influence that was supposed to move from political insiders to the broad public has been captured by activists, pollsters, pundits and fundraisers -- not exactly the people the reformers had in mind. The new system removes the useful peer-group screening that once operated, but fails in its promise to give power to the people."

You mean, the BCRA didn't solve the "problem" of special interests in politics?

And, according to the electoral college, we weren't meant to choose the president anyway, so it's no big deal.

Office Pool, by Bill Safire

New York Times

Predictions for the coming year. The questions are multiple choice. Safire's answers are at the bottom. Here are mine:

1. none; 2. b; 3. b; 4. b; 5. b; 6. none; 7. d; 8. b; 9. a; 10. none; 11. c; 12. d; 13. a; 14. none; 15. a; 16. a

Who is Howard Dean and What's His Problem?

Two of today's Washington Post editorials take this question on.

Marjorie Williams says being a doctor is his problem - he won't admit he's falliable. I wrote about some doctors' attitudes yesterday, but if you want a good portrayal of the doctor-turned-politician phenomenon, read this NY Times profile of Bill Frist from a few months ago. He basically thought he was a god for a time.

Harold Meyerson thinks Dean is too much like John Wayne, and not enough like Jimmy Stewart.

What Meyerson is trying to say is that Dean should be the doctor in The Shootist (Stewart), not the gunslinger (Wayne).

Butting In: Forget the French--America is right to press for religious freedom worldwide, by Terry Eastland

Weekly Standard

The focus of the article is Chirac's attempt to ban religious attire in public schools.

"John Hanford, the U.S. ambassador at large for religious freedom, effectively called on the French to understand that such displays, so long as they are a "heartfelt manifestation" of people's beliefs and not acts of provocation, constitute 'a basic right that should be protected.' A French official was offended, as the French can be, and told the New York Times that 'never have you heard a French diplomat comment on an internal debate in the United States.'"

I'm proud we're willing to take a stand on this kind of thing, though I doubt we'll do much about it.

U.S. Bans Dietary Supplement Linked to Number of Deaths

New York Times

Damn. What are we to do now? I'm almost willing to try a reasonable diet and regular exercise. Nah.

Iraq ignites strife between Senate's senior Democrat, Republican: An often warm friendship turns chilly


The article discusses the relationship between Ted Stevens and Robert Byrd. Byrd can be cool when he delves into constitutional history, but can also be very blustery, plodding, self-righteous, and annoying. I really don't know how Stevens behaves, but Byrd's attitude is common among older senators beyond their prime. They basically feel they have the right to indulge themselves and waste everybody's time. I'm not suprised they've lost patience with each other.

God bless the ACLU, By John M. Templeton, Jr. and Michael Novak

Washington Times

The title is ironic. The op-ed lists 7 anti-religion accomplishments the ACLU will have achieved by 2007. Quote:

"6. They removed all crosses, Stars of David and crescents from the gravestones of American soldiers in military cemeteries around the world.

7. Finally, as a coup de grace, they succeeded in getting major revisions or deletions in the public use of American historical documents, including:
a. The removal from the Declaration of Independence of the words: "Nature's God," "Creator," "Supreme Judge" and "Divine Providence."
b. Deletion from the public use of letters and speeches by America's founders of any reference to God, Providence, the Ten Commandments or religion in general, including numerous such references made by George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Abraham Lincoln.
c. Deletion — when sung in public — of the last God-laden Stanzas of 'My Country Tis of Thee' and 'The Star Spangled Banner.'"

With the exception of 7(c), I don't see the ACLU pursuing the efforts quoted. I don't think they want to change history directly, so much as they'd like to ban public endorsement of religious ideas. Both are usually bad, but the former is worse. The ACLU often sucks, but it doesn't such as badly as Templeton and Novak portray it.

Ashcroft Recuses Self From Leak Case

Washington Post

Ashcroft used an "appearance of conflict of interest" standard, similar to the "appearance of bias" standard for judicial recusal. These standards are overinclusive, but more objective than an "actual bias" standard, which relies on the representations of the person to be recused. The idea is that it's better to be overinclusive than under, I suppose. I hope the standards aren't based on the idea that the public's perception counts more than reality. From such poisonous fruit evils like the BCRA are formed.

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

A Not So Brief Recess, by Jeffrey Toobin

New Yorker

Justice Brennan's biographer is taking his merry time. But, far more importantly in the larger scheme of things, my roommate, Abner Mikva, is quoted in the piece:

"'Abner Mikva, the former judge who introduced Wermiel to Brennan, now seems to regret doing so. 'It’s like getting a patent and not putting the product out on the market,' he said."

Ok, so he's not my roommate exactly. But he does live a few floors above me, and I have shared an elevator with him. Twice. (from How Appealing)

The National Creed, by David Brooks

New York Times

"If George Bush and Howard Dean met each other on a political platform, they would fight and feud. If they met in a Bible study group and talked about their eternal souls, they'd probably embrace."

Oh yeah, I believe it. Then, there'd be this awkward pause; their eyes would meet - Bush looking all compassionate and conservative, Dean looking all vulnerable and unelectable. Like Carville and Matlin, they'd live happily ever as opposites. In a civil union, mind you, not a gay marriage, as Bush always makes clear to their swinger (swing-voter) friends. I wish David Brooks would tell the whole story.

Bush-Hatred: Fearful Loathing . . ., by Robert J. Samuelson

Washington Post

"[If Bush] succeeded less, he'd be hated less. His fiercest detractors don't loathe him merely because they think he's mediocre, hypocritical and simplistic. What they truly resent is that his popularity suggests that the country might be more like him than it is like them. They fear he's exiling them politically. On one level, their embrace of hatred aims to make others share their outrage; but on another level, it's a self-indulgent declaration of moral superiority -- something that makes them feel better about themselves. Either way, it represents another dreary chapter in the continuing coarsening of public discourse. "

. . . Or a Rational Response?, by E.J. Dionne Jr.
Washington Post

"Republicans won in 2002, but Bush lost most Democrats forever. Conservative critics of 'Bush hatred' like to argue that opposition to the president is a weird psychological affliction. It is nothing of the sort. It is a rational response to getting burned. They are, as a friend once put it, biting the hand that slapped them in the face."

We report. You decide.

2003: The Rich Got Richer . . . And So Did Everyone Else

Weekly Standard

Well, not everyone. I lost money this year. So did Bill Bennett. That's about it, though.

UPDATE: Paul Krugman disagrees.

The Racist Tapestry of Lord of the Rings

This article is good for a laugh. (from Instapundit)

U.S. Orders Foreign Airlines to Use Armed Marshals

New York Times

What will they be packing? Almanacs.

Almanacs May Be Tool For Terrorists, FBI Says

Washington Post

Dense and flammable, almanacs are a terror too long ignored. I'm thinking: federal registration laws.

This also settles the long debate: guns don't kill people, but people don't kill people either. Almanacs do.

Monday, December 29, 2003

Woman Charged With Killing Friend for Fetus

Washington Post

"A woman who had convinced her husband she was pregnant -- and was even thrown a baby shower -- killed a pregnant acquaintance and cut the fetus from her womb, authorities said Monday."

This lady should get the death penalty if she did this. Notably, Oklahoma allows murder charges for both the mother and the fetus' death. Seems right to me.

Dean Had Own Secret Energy Group


Dean says his secret committee was better because he "had a much more open process than Cheney's process. We named the people we sought advice from in our final report." In response:

"An expert in political rhetoric said it was risky for Dean to attack Bush and Cheney on an issue where he was vulnerable.

'In general, what is good for the vice president should be good for the governor. A candidate who attacks on grounds he is vulnerable is foolish,' said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a University of Pennsylvania professor who helps run a Web site that compares presidential candidates' rhetoric to the facts."

Salvatori tried to get Kathleen Hall Jamieson for our Bush conference. She couldn't come, but she's super cool - political rhetoric is a very juicy area, because politicians always say stupid stuff, and always have (read Nichols' Gorgias).

Paul Wolfowitz: Godfather of the Iraq war


"As tag teams go, Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, could not be more unlikely. Rumsfeld is a Cook County, Ill., politician, while Wolfowitz would be more at home at the University of Chicago, where he earned his doctorate. That makes them the most interesting one-two combination this side of Bush-Cheney."

The article is short, but I couldn't ignore the U of C reference.

Paper Trail Shows Syria as Iraq's Main Weapons Link: Files recovered in Iraq describe deals violating U.N. sanctions

Los Angeles Times

I bet if we'd found all this info when Hans Blix was looking for UN violations it wouldn't have made a bit of difference, but it's good to know it's out there.

Rumbling on the hard-line right

Washington Times

"'I'm hearing a lot of anger,' says Richard Viguerie, the guru of conservative political direct mail. 'I'm beginning, for the first time, [to hear] people talk about 'it would not be the worst thing in the world if Howard Dean were president,' because the size of government would stay still rather than increase 50 percent under a second Bush administration.'"

Viguerie's source for his statement came from a certain Doward Hean, a rural physician currently residing in Iowa.

Dispute in Michael Jackson Camp Over Role of the Nation of Islam

New York Times

"Officials from the Nation of Islam, a separatist African-American Muslim group, have moved in with Michael Jackson and are asserting control over the singer's business affairs, friends, employees and business associates of Mr. Jackson said.

Initially invited to the Neverland Ranch several weeks ago to provide security for Mr. Jackson, members of the Nation of Islam are now restricting access to him and have begun making decisions for him related to the news media, his business affairs and even his legal strategy, some of Mr. Jackson's friends and associates said. Mr. Jackson faces charges of child molesting in Santa Barbara and recently moved into a rented house in Los Angeles, where Nation of Islam officials have accompanied him."

I feel this was the obvious move for MJ. Things just weren't bizarre enough.

After Complaint, Dean Explains Himself to Party Chairman

Washington Post

Bush always takes crap for being incoherent, but Dean's the one who keeps "explaining himself" all the time.

Meanwhile, later the article notes:

"In a hotel ballroom in downtown Detroit, Dr. Dean received an endorsement from Representative John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, the longest-serving African-American in Congress, as he promised to raise the federal minimum wage to $7 an hour from its current $5.15.

'Our philosophy is give your working people a little more money; they might be able to spend some of it down on Main Street,' Dr. Dean told about 150 supporters."

But remember everyone: giving more money to people so they'll spend it only works through the minimum wage, and only works for poor people.

Papers: Saddam revealing information on guns, money


But he's been strangely silent on the topic of butter.

A Road Paved With Pledges and Pain: Student Built Alliances in Village to Reach an American College

Washington Post

This young woman's story is very interesting. A little exposure to the world energized her to make changes in the culturally-based practices of her small African hometown. More power to her. Disagree? Read this account of her circumcision:

"So one early morning in April 1994, Ntaiya entered the cow pen behind her house in the company of her 13-year-old sister, Nasieku, another young village woman and a grandmother with a knife. The girls had spent the previous week traveling through the village, blowing whistles and ringing bells to announce their upcoming initiation into adulthood, and the previous night singing and dancing in the Ntaiya home with all the neighbor women. And then, with what seemed like the entire village crowding in to watch, Ntaiya lifted her skirt and spread her legs and the grandmother grabbed her most intimate pieces of flesh and with a fast, deep, scooping slash tore them out.

What on earth must it have felt like?

'It's ridiculous,' Ntaiya says, with a distant, nervous laugh. 'Like torture.'"

The Prime Directive be damned.

Worried Pain Doctors Decry Prosecutions

Washington Post

"As DEA officials see it, the medical community needs to get much better control over narcotic prescribing. The agency has met frequently with societies representing pain doctors and pain medicine and has encouraged them to expand narcotic-use training for physicians -- which all agree is woefully inadequate. The agency often says that it supports the legitimate use of prescription narcotics for chronic pain sufferers and has agreed to some general guidelines worked out with those groups.

But the DEA also is the agency targeting pain doctors who write frequent narcotic prescriptions and collecting information leading to arrests. And as many doctors have learned, the government does not require evidence of what is normally considered criminal intent to bring charges.

'We don't have to prove extra money is being made or doctors are getting favors for prescribing,' Willis of the DEA said. 'What we have to prove is that they are operating outside the course of legitimate medical practice.'"

Ooh, the DEA v pain doctors. Don't expect either side to back down. I bet some of these docs do overprescribe. They think: how dare the DEA tell me how to practice medicine? This is the difference between doctors and lawyers. Lawyers are fully resigned to the fact that the government can tell us what to do - and then we ignore them anyway.

Army Stops Many Soldiers From Quitting

Washington Post

These stop loss requirements are tough. As a major put it: "We're all soldiers. We go where were told," said Maj. Steve Stover, an Army spokesman. "Fair has nothing to do with it."

Sunday, December 28, 2003

Crazy Football Finishes

Seattle is in the playoffs, and because of the crazy finish in the Minnesota/Arizona game, so is Green Bay. The Seahawks and Packers will be playing each other next Sunday in Green Bay. I'm excited.

Pakistan Leader Has More Enemies and Fewer Friends

New York Times

"Anyone taking time to ponder the fate of the predecessors of President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan over the last three decades would not find the facts very reassuring. One was hanged, another died in a suspicious plane crash, and two were ousted from power and remain in exile."

Two attempts on his life in two weeks. I'd have died of a heart attack first.

For 2004, Bush Has Strength in the White Male Numbers: His wide advantage in that right-leaning group may trump Democrats' edge elsewhere

Los Angeles Times

"Stanley B. Greenberg, the pollster for Gore in 2000 and Clinton in 1992, agreed. 'Younger, married white men are disastrously, overwhelmingly Republican,' he said. 'They are trending more Republican over time. Everything about George Bush speaks to them.'"

It's about 70% pro-Bush right now in my demographic. I feel so common. This kid doesn't help.

Iran Quake Toll Rises to 25,000; Injured Fill Hospitals, and Streets

New York Times

"International rescue teams began arriving with sniffer dogs and detection equipment. One dog team dug out 20 survivors, the official Islamic Republic News Agency said.

The use of dogs, which are considered unclean by most Muslims, was a sticking point in rescue efforts in 1990, after the most deadly earthquake ever to strike Iran. It killed about 50,000 people."

I hadn't even thought about the dog issue. I'm glad they capitulated though. It seems almost every building in the city collapsed. Terrible.

Saturday, December 27, 2003

Meet the 21st-century Tolkien: He's 20, he has never been to school, he lives with his parents in a remote community in Montana

London Telegraph

Apparently he uses an old Celtic dialect in many portions of the book (the book's title is Eragon), which he started writing at 15. I might congratulate him if he didn't make me feel so inadequate.

NY Times Selects 'Individual of the Year'


"After word that Time magazine had selected 'The American Soldier' as its Person of the Year, The New York Times today announced its pick for '2003 Individual of the Year' - The African-American Unemployed, Uninsured, Lesbian Woman with an Unwanted Pregnancy."

UPDATE: Truth is better than fiction (or at least almost as good).

Despite Attempts, Beagle 2 Still Unheard From

New York Times

You must have patience with the Beagle. Just check out this story, which includes the classic line, "'He kind of stunk a little bit,' Will O'Connor said."

Tories, Even With a New Leader, See Little to Hope For

New York Times

"In their six-year struggle to prove that they are not a party of incompetent has-beens, Britain's sad-sack Conservatives have tried nearly everything."

How do you think the author (Sarah Lyall) feels about conservatives? I mean, she's not even trying.

Russian Youth Movement Linked to Jailed Tycoon Has Wide Civic Goals

New York Times

The group, New Civilization, promotes capitalist ideas in Russia's youth. Quote:

"Stanislav Belkovsky, a political scientist said to have influenced President Vladimir V. Putin's battle against some of Russia's billionaires, has derided New Civilization as a 'training ground for the storm troops of big business.'"

Wow. Could you imagine anyone in America saying this sort of thing?

Yes, yes I could.

Schwarzenegger Proves His Prowess, but Much Tougher Challenges Remain

Los Angeles Times

"People have stopped asking, 'How's Arnold doing?' They already know.

Republicans gush uncontrollably. Most Democrats smile in quiet admiration; some even join the chorus.

'He's exercising executive power to the max. That's the only way to get anything done around here,' proclaimed former Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown, the Oakland mayor."

I don't think this portrayal is very accurate. I do think he's popular, but not with lawmakers. Being an outside enforcer doesn't make one many friends on the inside. But that's ok with me.

Chicago Professor Stuff

I missed this article by Professor Sunstein on the BCRA decision, and this book review by Judge Posner, which discusses gay marriage. A quote from the Posner piece on the Lawrence decision:

"All that the decision actually holds is that moral disapproval of homosexuality is not a valid basis for criminalizing homosexual conduct; and, as I have said, the government can express its disapproval of what it regards as immoral activity by withholding a subsidy even when it cannot do so by criminal punishment; and it is a form of subsidy that Gerstmann is advocating, since marriage is a source of privileges. So I conclude that Lawrence will not overcome the impasse over whether there should be a constitutional right of homosexual marriage."

Posner concludes that the states should experiment, and see what catches on. Ultimately, he feels lawmakers, not judges, should be making the calls in this area. I discussed this issue a bit here, and I still wonder whether either avenue works very well for pro-gay rights activists at this point.

Ad Nauseum

Ads we won't see here, some for good reason - one ad shows a guy ripping out his brain and snorting it. Censorship please. (from Volokh Conspiracy)

Seventh Circuit of Hell

This is to note for the record that I came up with the "Seventh Circuit of Hell" idea before this guy did. Or at least that's my unsupportable claim. "Seventh Circuit of Hell" was a potential name for my law school trivia team. That's not to say I came up with it before everyone else; I'll give Dante a nod if I have to. (from How Appealing)

Seattle 24, San Francisco 17


"Seattle's first win in San Francisco since 1979 wasn't pretty, with both teams struggling to move the ball on a chilly day at Candlestick Park. But Hasselbeck and Shaun Alexander came up with just enough big plays to give the Seahawks (10-6) their second road victory of the season and a sweep of the 49ers in 2003.

Now the Seahawks need Minnesota to lose at Arizona, or Denver to beat Green Bay at Lambeau Field on Sunday. Seattle also could get in if Dallas loses at New Orleans, kicking off a complicated scenario that would eliminate the Packers."

Here's hoping!

I have such biased sports coverage, I know. But at least I'm not as bad as these people.

Back Peddling, by Jacob Levy

New Republic

The new Old Democrats (like Dean) would do well to listen to the old New Democrats (like Clinton) on issues of trade policy, says Levy. I'd like to see some new Old Old Democrats (like William Jennings Bryan) myself. After all, Grolier says that "[a]lthough he was thwarted three times in bids for the presidency, everything reasonable in his political program has since become law." That's quite a claim! Bryan would be pretty Old Old at this point, however.

Arguing With Oakeshott, by David Brooks

New York Times

Anybody who had Elements of the Law with David Strauss knows Michael Oakeshott. Strauss seemed to think pretty highly of him. All I really remember is that Oakeshott generally thought discretion preferable to rules in the rules/standards dichotomy. Rules are only useful to settle simple questions.

Brooks portrays Oakeshott as a skeptic, critical of those who find truths, rights and wrongs, etc, because we lack sufficient information to reach those conclusions. I think Brooks finds this view a bit paralyzing, as do I. But to the extent Oakeshott makes natural rights-based thinkers second guess themselves a bit when they put their ideas in action, he's probably valuable.

Just In Case You Haven't Had Your Fill of Dean

George Will's op-ed compares Dean to Arthur Goldberg and George Wallace, which you can read here. Meanwhile, Dan Balz has a news analysis piece on Dean and the coming primaries here.

Free Trade Accord at 10: Growing Pains are Clear

New York Times

Mostly about how Nafta hurts people, but if we were more like Canada and the EU (aka more socialist), then we'd be better off. Just as you'd expect from the Times.

The Weekly Dish, by Andrew Sullivan

Washington Times

This week, Sullivan presents his yearly awards for most idiotic public utterances.

Japan's Empire of Cool: Country's Culture Becomes Its Biggest Export

Washington Post

The article doesn't mention Ichiro once. Not cool.

U.S. Thinks Mad Cow Came From Canada


This twist in the mad cow story has inspired me write a bad song, as I'm apt to do.

Blame Canada 2

Blame Canada! Blame Canada!

With their haughty Frenchie ways, and oh how they like the gays

Blame Canada, blame Canada

They have a wimpy little prime minister, and Donald Sutherland looks so sinister

Blame Canada, blame Canada

It's time for a battle they screwed our cattle.

(one more!)

Blame Canada! blame Canada!

Let's get that singer named K.D., but please spare Geddy Lee

Blame Canada, blame Canada

Why couldn't Creutzfeldt Jacob disease have infected Keanu Reeves?

Blame Canada, blame Canada

Canada must fall like the Kids in the Hall.

Tocqueville and College Football: A defense of the Bowl Championship Series, by Jeffrey H. Anderson

Weekly Standard

"The public outcry was loud and immediate: How dare the BCS leave out USC, thereby defying public opinion as registered by the media and coaches' polls? Perhaps most striking was the nearly complete absence of any attempt to defend the polls' judgments as correct. Their correctness was held to be self-evident. The consensus view, expressed on ABC's BCS selection show, ESPN's follow-up broadcast, and apparently in living rooms and barrooms across the nation (judging by emails I received), was something along the lines of, 'The polls have USC No. 1, yet the Trojans are not No. 1 in the BCS standings; therefore, the BCS standings are clearly wrong.' This recalls Tocqueville's comment that in America, 'the majority . . . lives in perpetual adoration of itself.'"

Anderson is a co-creator of the BCS and a political science professor. How cool is that? His talents allow him to defend the BCS and work Tocqueville into his analysis. Plus, he's right: the BCS nay-sayers were the same people that complained about the lates-season bias of the AP poll. Under the old system, a team like Oklahoma could beat incredible teams all season, lose their last game to another great team, and be knocked out of contention. Meanwhile, USC could lose to a crappy team early in the season, play medicore teams the rest of the year, and pass Oklahoma.

In sum, the BCS is preferable to heat-of-the-moment sportswriter voting. It avoids Tocqueville's pitfall of the temporary irrational democratic majority, and instead picks the best teams under clear standards everyone knows beforehand. I'm sold.

Bush Advisers, With Eye on Dean, Formulate '04 Plans

New York Times

"President Bush's campaign has settled on a plan to run against Howard Dean that would portray him as reckless, angry and pessimistic, while framing the 2004 election as a referendum on the direction of the nation more than on the president himself, Mr. Bush's aides say."

If Republicans want the next election to be about positive thoughts, not Bush, then maybe Bush shouldn't be running. Why even have people running? I'd like to see a good campaign by an inanimate object. But not Bob Dole this time, please.

UPDATE: Geoffrey Nunberg critizes the Republican approach here.

Friday, December 26, 2003

Flying Ms. Fixit for 5 Secretaries of State

New York Times

An article about the computer tech person for the Secretary of State. The article doesn't talk about the technology at all, but the tech lady does have some good stories. Check out this one:

"A memorable instance of bad traffic occurred in Paris when a mother pointedly forced her baby carriage into the street to halt the siren-blaring motorcade."

And you thought our protesters were bad.

Dean: Bin Laden guilt best determined by jury


"I've resisted pronouncing a sentence before guilt is found,' Dean said in the interview. 'I will have this old-fashioned notion that even with people like Osama, who is very likely to be found guilty, we should do our best not to, in positions of executive power, not to prejudge jury trials.'

Dean added he is certain most Americans agree with that sentiment.

Later, Dean released a statement clarifying, 'I share the outrage of all Americans. Osama bin Laden has admitted that he is responsible for killing 3,000 Americans as well as scores of men, women and children around the world. This is the exactly the kind of case that the death penalty is meant for. '"

This is all very weird. Dean seems to be invoking some kind of technical sense of guilt, in which you can be outraged about someone's crimes, and certain of what they've done, but not consider them "guilty" of a crime until a jury says so. I'm following him so far.

Yet, a person of executive power can, apparently, claim Bin Laden is "the kind of case that the death penalty is meant for," (thus assuming he's already been pronounced guilty) without second-guessing the jury system, or "pronouncing a sentence before guilt is found." He's lost me. Then again, Dean never had me, really.

Thursday, December 25, 2003

A Present for the Holidays

Juan Non-Volokh says Guinness is good for you, or at least better than most other beers. I'm not going to bother and check if he's right - I don't want to know. But I'm running with it.

Don't Stop Dean, by William Safire

New York Times

Safire's reasoning: if Dean loses the nomination, he'll run as an independent. This will split the Democratic vote and cause Bush to win by such a landslide that it would be too hubris-inducing for Republicans. Although Republicans already have hubris to spare, I could think of worse fates for the country. Like Dean becoming president.

G.O.B.B.L.E. Membership

This site contains a list of all bloggers who have criticzed Bush for using a fake turkey as a prop during his Thanksgiving Iraq visit. The fake turkey thing is based upon this article. Many fine bloggers are on the list, including Gregg Easterbrook.

The funny thing is, the article says the turkey was real, as the G.O.B.B.L.E. site notes. At least Easterbrook's company in this mistake was liberals; his last mistake placed him in worse company, I'd say. (from Instapundit)

Dumbest/most pointless political stunt in 2003

This site has the poll. The options:

a) Republicans renaming French fries "freedom fries"
b) NOW endorsing Carol Moseley-Braun, a Democratic primary poll cellar dweller, for President
c) The Republican Senate debate marathon about filibustered judicial nominees
d) The "human shield" morons who traveled to Iraq to volunteer to be human shields against US and coalition bombing targets.
e) Democrats in Texas fleeing to Oklahoma and New Mexico to block redistricting votes

My vote is for (a). Freedom fries really crack me up, especially since we usually make fun of the French for this kind of language manipulation. I think that's the one that'll look the stupidest 20 years from now. Not that it doesn't look really stupid right now. (from The Corner)

For Mrs. Clinton, Listening Subsides and Talk Is Louder

New York Times

Finally, Hillary's going to let us know how she really feels.

Kerry Lends Campaign $6.4 Million

Washington Post

Breaking the age old rule: don't lend money to friends.

No Joke! 37 Years After Death Lenny Bruce Receives Pardon

New York Times

"The governor said the posthumous pardon — the first in the state's history — was 'a declaration of New York's commitment to upholding the First Amendment.'

'Freedom of speech is one of the greatest American liberties, and I hope this pardon serves as a reminder of the precious freedoms we are fighting to preserve as we continue to wage the war on terror,' Mr. Pataki said in a statement.

Being dead, Mr. Bruce is not expected to reap any immediate benefit from the pardon."

A little NY Times humor at the end there.

Posthumous pardons open up a whole big can-of-worms. I'm sure there are more than a few black people in the 18th century that were convicted of something akin to "being black in public." They deserve to be pardoned too. It might be tough to cover everybody.

But I think I have a solution: pardon all dead people. Won't hurt anybody. Do it for the holidays!

Commune to Close, After Years of Strife and Striving

New York Times

Seattle-area commune fails after 35 years. Quote:

"Love Israel's failure was not for lack of trying. The group has many skilled craftsmen, and it kept borrowing against its property to start businesses in and around Arlington - a restaurant, a wood mill, artist studios and other shops and cottage businesses. Love Israel's annual Garlic and Music Festival, which draws thousands of people every year, earned enough money to meet some mortgage payments. But it was not enough. When the last of its business ventures failed, the group filed for bankruptcy last February."

For some reason, communists make bad capitalists.

Holiday Blogging . . .

. . . is limited to nonexistent, as our approximately 10 readers might have noticed. Things should pick up again around the beginning of the year.

Terror fears cancel Air France flights to L.A.


I'm sure this was a big pain for the people flying to LA, but when it comes to averting massive terrorist attacks, playing it safe is ok with me. Especially since I'm in LA!

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Malvo Is Spared Death Penalty

Washington Post

The article notes he'll likely face death penalty trials a few more times, which is good. I was watching Fox News as the verdict came out. When a panelist noted that Malvo would still face future trials with the possibility of death, this dumb Fox newsanchor lady was like, "isn't that double jeopardy?" The panelist had to calmly explain to her that when you kill multiple people, you can be tried for murder for each death. Apparently the newsanchor thought that once you've gone through one murder trial, you get a free pass for all other murders. Clearly, the newsanchor lady attended the Ashley Judd Double Jeopardy school of law (some of which was filmed in Washington, by the way). That law school is currently unaccredited, I understand.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

First apparent U.S. case of mad cow disease discovered


Where was it discovered? Mabton, Washington, a town outside of Yakima. Washington just hasn't been doing well lately.

Bill Nye's Sundial Hitches a Ride to Mars: Science Guy's device important as NASA backup

Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Bill Nye is the coolest Seattlite ever. Clearly, his humble sketch comedy roots on Almost Live! (a local comedy show that aired before SNL) prepared him well for NASA science work.

Monday, December 22, 2003

Man Will Ask Court to Let Him Procreate

Akron Beacon Journal

I thought we'd already settled this debate with Skinner v Oklahoma. Somewhere, the ghost of Justice Holmes is smiling. (from How Appealing)

Meanwhile, the debate on polygamy goes on, at least in Utah.

Judges Reconsider Teasing Case: Partial victory for Federal Way child

My hometown classmates' penchant for cruelty is making national news. It's too bad Federal Way's publicity is always negative, but then again, most publicity is negative. (from How Appealing)

And Seatte is also making news for its death penalty policy - the Green River killer gets life while others, who've killed far less, get death. I do feel the Green River killer situation provides odd incentives for murders - kill enough people, and we'll trade away death for information on where the victims are buried. But my understanding was that the Seattle prosecutors were willing to pursue the death penalty, but the victims' families generally didn't want it. Maybe victims' preferences shouldn't matter, for the sake of consistency, especially when there are so many victims that their families cannot reach a consensus on death.

UPDATE: More on the teasing case from Overlawyered (I must note how weird it is to see my hometown in national headlines, even if it is just blog headlines).

Murdoch's Empire Is in Orbit: With the OK to buy DirecTV, the media titan can conquer more U.S. viewers via satellite

Los Angeles Times

Note the word choice: Murdoch "conquers" viewers, he doesn't "win-over" or "please" them. Apparently Murdoch is looking to be the American Berlusconi. Although "conquer" better connotes a media Mussolini. A Machiavellian mogul, if you will. I won't anymore.

Given Murdoch's influences, perhaps he should consider conquering Italy. Oh yeah, he's already trying to do that.

Out of the Mainstream? Hardly, by Howard Dean

Washington Post

Dean responds to this Post editorial calling his foreign policy views "beyond the mainstream." He says the Bush administration is out of the mainstream, not him.

This is pretty similar to the judicial nominations banter: Schumer says Estrada is out of the mainstream. Hatch says filibusters are beyond the mainstream, and Estrada is normal. And so it goes.

Everyone is wrong. The long-elusive mainstream is actually personified by Pier Paolo Pasolini, famed Italian communist homosexual filmmaker who was murdered in 1975 by a child he wished to have sex with. If only they knew.

To sum it up, politicians ought to flee the mainstream for their lives, and fight it out for the most radical positions possible. You know, like the French.

The Clinton View of Iraq-al Qaeda Ties

Weekly Standard

Clinton view was similar to the Bush view. I'm not sure what this tells us, except that both administration's intelligence is either good or bad. The "see, Clinton did it too" defense generally doesn't work for me. Or my girlfriend.

Fund-Raising Effort Helps Lift a College's Ranking

New York Times

The college in question is Washington University in St. Louis. Check this out:

"It is all part of what Mr. Wrighton, the chancellor, called the push to become 'America's best university' — not to trounce Harvard, necessarily, but because 'there's no reason why America can't have more than one No. 1 institution.'"

Yeah there is: number theory.

This article shows why U.S. News rankings can be so stupid to rely upon. A school that's in the midst of a capital campaign can jump a dozen spots or more, only to nosedive a few years later. Better to just rank a few stats independently, like "most selective schools," "highest average SAT," etc, if you ask me.

An Ailing Pope Aided by Circle Of Confidants

Washington Post

"Dziwisz, 64, has the confidence to 'interpret the pope's mind,' a Vatican official said. During the lead-up to the Iraq war last winter, Vatican reporters corralled Dziwisz to ask about the pope's position. They expected him to run off and consult the pontiff, but Dziwisz replied immediately. The pope opposed the war, he said. 'Dziwisz does not feel the need to go to anyone else when he speaks,' said Allen, the author."

But that was such an easy question! I can interpret the pope's mind too: likes: polish sausage, repenting, and school vouchers. Dislikes: war, sin, and gays. Maybe I should be considered for the next pope.

Clark, Dean Camps Spar Over Vice President Talk


Why not give the VP nod to a candidate whose chances of becoming president are so low that they should be happy with VP, such as . . . well, I see Dean's point.

Then again, the LA Times' Ronald Brownstein says the "Clark Campaign Is Advancing," so what do I know. Not as much as Ronald Brownstein, that's for sure. He was one of the most impressive panelists in the Salvatori Center's conference on the Bush administration I worked on.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Al Gore's Son Charged with Pot Possession


Al Gore III (yep, that's his name) already has reckless driving and a DWI under his belt. Like the Bush daughters, he's either unlucky or stupid. My money's on the latter.

But, in his defense, if Al Gore was my dad, I'd need an escape too. Or perhaps everyone endorses Howard Dean in their own way.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

South Park on Saddam

The new South Park episode, which first aired Wednesday, had some stuff on Saddam's capture. Saddam turns out to be the prime minister of Canada, running things from a spiderhole in Wizard of Oz-like fashion. Then the Canadians threw a parade praising the Americans' find.

It's just amazing that they can write and animate an episode about an event that ocurred 3 days before. Hopefully they'll have some funny comentary on the election next year. We'll see whether they focus mostly on the Democratic candidates or not; whatever they do, it'll be fodder for the South Park Republican debate.

UPDATE: ABC news has a small piece on the character of Butters here. Don't ask me why.

Ebert's Reviews

Has anyone else noticed that Rogert Ebert likes everything lately? I previously noted that Ebert gave 15 3+ star reviews in a row in November. Now, in December he's got a 8 movie streak, including crap like Mona Lisa Smile and Love Don't Cost A Thing. I think he's losing whatever touch he had.

I was in the same small bar as him once, Blue Chicago. I had just been in a car accident. He told me I looked great.

Ok, so some of that is made up. But the first part is true.

Non-widescreen Version of DVD Received as Hanukkah Gift

The Onion

My parents always do this!

2003's Best Albums

Metacritic is the rottentomatoes for music (though it does other stuff too). It's top 20 includes Led Zeppelin and Lucinda Williams, two of my favorites.

On the Web, an Amateur Audience Creates Anti-Bush Ads

New York Times

"The content of the MoveOn ads is circumscribed by the campaign finance reforms of the McCain-Feingold Law, upheld earlier this month by the Supreme Court. While prohibiting soft-money donations to political parties, the law allows donations to flow to independent groups like MoveOn as long they run only informational ads and do not specifically endorse a candidate.

Thus MoveOn's call for submissions was careful to solicit ads that would help voters 'understand the truth about George Bush.' No ads supporting the president's policies were sent in, contest organizers noted. They also disqualified about 100 submissions, including some for reasons of taste. A spot showing a frog dropped into boiling water, a metaphor for 'how the administration is turning up the heat in this country,' according to its director, was deemed unsuitable for television."

This is a "wink-wink" way around the BCRA, because nobody's willing to actually follow a law that says they can't criticize the President. The fact that BCRA even touches this kind of speech is frightening.

Jefferson Guilty, Napoleon Not, Scalia Decides in a Mock Trial


Sounds like it was kind of similar to this Jefferson-Hamilton reenactment, which was excellent. Maybe it was the same Jefferson - this guy really had his stuff down. Fun.

Science News of the Year 2003

Science News

In case you're like me and don't follow science nearly as much as you should, you can read this article and catch up. Science news is great if you want to sound smart during holiday party conversation. On second thought, just skip it - I don't want to listen to you.

Court passes down sentences on convicted '17N' members

Greek Embassy

An important step to make sure the Olympics aren't ruined. Now the Greeks just have to finish building everything.

Lost? Hiding? Your Cellphone Is Keeping Tabs

New York Times

I think I speak for eveyone my age when I say how glad I am this technology didn't catch on when I was in high school.

Strong Support Is Found for Ban on Gay Marriage

New York Times

"This poll and other surveys show that as the courts have extended legal rights to gays this year, Americans have become increasingly uncomfortable with same-sex relations.

For decades, a majority of Americans have not approved of homosexual relations. That had begun to change, until the Supreme Court ruling in June and the Massachusetts ruling in November. A New York Times/CBS News poll conducted in July found that 54 percent of respondents said homosexual relations should be legal. Only 41 percent of the respondents in the latest poll said they should be legal.

. . .

The Massachusetts ruling also gave new impetus in Congress to sponsors of a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. An amendment, which would require passage by two-thirds of the House and Senate and three-fourths of the states, would override any state court ruling or legislation."

Perhaps a warning for those who wish to sell courts on rights the legislature won't buy. I suppose pro-gay marriage advocates would say that subverting reluctant lawmakers is their only avenue to pursue unpopular rights. I'm not sure if they're just plain stuck, or if their timing is off. Eugene Volokh adds some thoughts here.

UPDATE: According to Scappleface, the Ninth Circuit reversed the anti-gay marriage poll results. Meanwhile, Bush declared the Second Circuit an "enemy combatant."

Virgin Pilot on Drink-fly Charge


Virgin's just trying to advertise their anything-goes image. They asked him to fly naked first, then settled on being drunk off his ass.

How Appealing Roundup

Too much good stuff, so what am I to do? List it, that's what:

The Padilla decision is here. And whadayaknow, Stephen Reinhardt thinks Guantanamo guys have habeas rights, which you can read about here. Cover story on Kozinski here (you must, I repeat, must check out the picture. Not too many federal judges willing to do that!), along with other good stuff in Legal Affairs magazine. Laurence Tribe gets angry here (all those recent high profile appellate loses must be getting to him). The D.C. Circuit decision allowing ISP's to refrain from giving the info of mp3 traders is here. And last but not least, Richard Epstein wrote an interesting amicus brief for the pledge case here.

Mariners Re-sign Ichiro


The only present I really wanted for the holidays.

'Emissary of death' sentenced to life

Seattle Times

The Green River Killer is sentenced to life in prison. I grew up near Green River, and my mom worked there for many years, so this guy always scared the crap out of us. Even more than the communists. In fact, the Green River Killer, the USSR, and ET pretty much sums up all my childhood fears. 2 down, 1 to go I guess. If it weren't for those damn flying bikes . . .

Schwarzenegger Seizes Reins of Power in Capitol

Los Angeles Times

"Schwarzenegger's raw assertion of executive power in repaying local governments for the billions lost when he repealed the vehicle license fee increase sent a clear message that he can govern without lawmakers' cooperation, a political reality that could leave the Legislature marginalized."

Given legislators' state of denial about the effects of their spending, an outside enforcer is necessary. Just the words "outside enforcer" bring to mind Arnie for me. Maybe that's just because it sounds like an action movie title.

Lawsuits without Injuries?

AEI recently had a panel on this question. Richard Epstein moderated. That's reason enough to view the video here. (from Overlawyered)

And if you're intersted in a profile of a lawsuit with injuries, check out this NY Times article (part of a series) on remedies for workplace injuries.

Ethical Selector Test

You can take it here. I don't usually do these things, but it's philosophy-oriented, the questions are pretty good, and it's short.

I'm 100% Acquinas, which is cool. I feel bad for the 100% Nietzsche people. (from Legal Theory Blog)

The China Threat?, by Nicholas D. Kristof

New York Times

Kristof warns of the growing nationalism of Chinese youth. We just need to air drop some Harry Potter over there. It contains all of life's lessons, plus nice pictures.

UPDATE: A noted author takes Kristof's facts in the article to task here.

Fewer Teens Report They Abuse Drugs: Decline Is Attributed to Ads and Crackdowns

Washington Post

And a totally unrelated poll: lying by teens is up 53%.

Ease a Little Guilt, Provide Some Jobs; It's Pork on the Hill

New York Times

Check out this defense:

"'Look, this is the standard practice the United States Congress has had for decades,' Mr. Gibbons said. 'They allocate a percentage of the budget to go to special projects in various members' districts. There are thousands in there. I have one of those thousands. I do not regard this as pork.'"

I'm convinced.

Playing Mogul

New York Times

All about the video game industry today, from the perspective of Bruno Bonnell, CEO of Atari. At one point the article discusses how Bonnell considers the "lesson" and "ethics" of a game before greenlighting it. I gotta say: that'll kill ya. It's not a terrible thing from a moral perspective, but you can pass up great ideas that way. And great ideas are how video game companies survive. Any company that vetoes the next Grand Theft Auto because of it's lack of ethics or a lesson isn't long for this world.

It's not that you need missions that involve killing gangsters' wives and making it look like an accident (an early Vice City mission), but you do need realism, and a lack of limits. After GTA, gamers are only going to be satisfied with games where they can do what they want. It's not that they will always do bad things, but it's fun to know that you can. So even if missions aren't structured around bad behavior, it's pretty important to make bad behavior a possibility.

Note that this argument only applies to games like GTA, it's clones, and massively multiplayer online games. Sports games, puzzle games, etc, are still insulated from some of this influence (although it creeps up in debates over things like fighting in EA's NHL games), and can survive with a sense of ethics and lessons. But since EA controls the sports market, and the market for puzzle and nintendo-like platformers is declining, most game companies will soon find themselves in the lurch if they can't compete in the realism market. And, for better or for worse, competing in the realism market requires the possibility of bad in-game behavior, and even the possibility of getting away with it.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Bush, Blair: Libya to dismantle WMD programs


Libya's been trying to please everyone for a few years now. They've been paying out on lawsuits, saying nice things about us, and now this. I'm sure they only have self interest in mind, but that's cool. As long as they think that new trade opportunties are better than nukes, it's a kind of self interest we should support.

UPDATE: LA Times has more on Libya's past overtures here. And even the New York Times says Bush was right on this one. (from The Corner)

Freedom Tower to rise 1,776 feet from ashes


The designers are claiming it will be the world's tallest building.

I like the new tower. But I don't think it will be world's tallest building. I've already said what I think about ornamental spires: they don't count. As you can see from this picture, the Sears Tower is much taller than Petronas and Taipei 101 if you take out the latter two's spires. Why is this fair? Because the Sears tower has "spires" too, but they supposedly don't count because they're useful. Better to just make the top floor the high point. Plus, to the untrained observer (like me), the top floor is where my eye focuses when I look to the "top" of a building.

Now, look at the Freedom Tower. Without the spire (not to mention the antenna), it's about as tall as the Chrysler Building. That's as high as anyone working there will go. I think that the Freedom Tower will be very impressive as an object, but the Sears Tower still stands, in my mind, as the tallest building around.

Not that anyone really cares. But that's what this site is for, things only we care about!

Killing Him Softly, by Charles Krauthammer

Washington Post

"The race is over. The Oscar for Best Documentary, Short Subject, goes to . . . 'Saddam's Dental Exam.'" Krauthammer thinks that the medical exam images of Saddam helped demystify him. Didn't see the exam on the Golden Globes nominee list.

But I did see many good nominations this year. I'm happy to see both Return of the King and Master and Commander for best drama. Lost in Translation deserves its spot on the best comedy list, though it's more a drama than a comedy. Jack Black, Johnny Depp, and Billy Bob Thornton are all great choices for best comedic actor, though I'm also not sure if Pirates of the Caribbean is really a comedy. I hear Bad Santa is underrated, so Thornton's nomination was unexpected. Scarlett Johansson was also great in Lost in Translation, so I'm glad she's nominated. Peter Sarsgaard, the guy who played Charles Lane in Shatted Glass, is nominated for best supporting actor. Also good call on giving Sofia Coppola (Lost in Translation), Peter Jackson (LOTR), and Peter Weir (Master and Commander) director nominations. And Howard Shore gets another nomination for LOTR. All in all, relatively few of the movies or actors I really liked this year are left off the list (Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Adaptation, 28 Days Later, Dirty Pretty Things, and Matchstick Men are the exceptions). Didn't see American Splendor, The Station Agent, or Whale Rider, so I can't comment on their omission.

And last but not least, Pearl Jam was nominated for best original song with "Man of the Hour" from Big Fish. Pretty cool.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

The Politics of Positive Thinking, by E. J. Dionne Jr.

Washington Post

Dionne says Edwards is positioning himself as the pro-ideas rather than anti-Dean candidate. That seems to have been Edwards' angle for a while, based on the debates I've seen. If you'd asked me which 3 Democratic candidates I liked best about a year ago, I would have said Kerry, Edwards, and maybe Dean. Now, I've lost a lot of respect for Kerry, but I like Edwards more than I did before. In fact, Edwards is the Democratic candidate I could most live with as President, I think.

I might eat those words later.

Malvo Guilty of Capital Murder: Sniper Trial Jury to Choose Sentence of Life or Death

Washington Post

As Judge Kozinski noted at school the other day, this is one of those cases where the death penalty should be used. All of the institutional problems about poor representation, lack of evidence, etc aren't in play. It was a well-publicised trial, the prosecution and defense were subject to enormous scrutiny, and the snipers were found guilty. And they are guilty. They shot, among others, small children. They should die.

Of course, you'd have to be crazy to try and kill a small child, so the snipers are insane. And Malvo was only 17. Perhaps the judge should delcare a writ of boys will be boys.

Grocery Workers' Health Fund Low: Joint union-company fund will be empty by the end of the year because the three supermarket companies in the strike

Los Angeles Times

Those bastard supermarkets won't pay the benefits of people who refuse to work for them. This again proves that corporations are evil. Why aren't they paying the strikers' salaries too?

And lets be clear on why the UFCW is striking. As the article mentions, the strikers are "fighting to maintain health benefits — traditionally fully paid by the supermarket employers — for its 70,000 members in Southern and Central California." Health care costs are rising dramatically, and these employees refuse to chip in. Maybe a total loss of healthcare will bring to light both how expensive healthcare is to maintain for 70,000 people, and how having a few bucks less in your pocket every month is preferable to having no healthcare at all.

I think unions can be valuable when they're used as a reasonable collective-bargaining tool to solve serious collective-action problems (workers' safety regs for employees without individual bargaining power and few substitute jobs, for example). But when the act to buffer employees from the market forces facing employers, they can destroy themselves and their company. Just ask United Airlines.

UPDATE: David Brooks has more comments on the union approach to the modern economy here.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Giordanos in Ciao America with Mario Batali

This episode of Batali's Food Network show samples the best pizzas from New York, Chicago, and LA. In the Chicago portion he visits Giordanos, my personal favorite (it's co-bloggers Ben and Lauren's favorite too, I think). The episode is great because it focuses on how they actually make the pizzas. Now I'm hungry.

In Seeking Presidency, Braun Could Win Back Reputation

New York Times

The article mentions she's an alum of Chicago Law. I lotteried in to a lunch with her (not just me, about 20 people total) at the law school the day before she officially announced her candidacy. She seemed very excited, and had a number of good catch phrases, such as the Bin Laden one mentioned in the article.

The other day I was looking through the class entries in the Law School Record, where alums update everyone on what they're doing. Braun's entry says this: "I am running for President of the United States." That's it. I thought that was kind of funny.

Spiderman 2 Trailer

See it here. I actually saw them filming a scene in downtown LA this September, so I can assure you the entire movie is great.

Queer Eye for the Medieval Man

This is hilarious. (from Volokh Conspiracy)

And while you're at Volokh, this policy study on noncitizen voting is so ridiculous its hilarious. The argument is that noncitizens can't vote, and not being able to vote is bad. It's akin to my argument that people without library cards can't check out books, and not being able to check out books is bad. If only there were an obvious solution . . .

'It Is as It Was': Mel Gibson's "The Passion" gets a thumbs-up from the pope, by Peggy Noonan


But the real question is, what does Eliot Spitzer think?

Trilogy Prize: The Return of the King and Bavarian food in Tijuana, by Jonah Goldberg

National Review

Jonah gives Return of the King a good review, like everyone else. But Jonah's biased, because he's going to be in the DVD.

Another Jayson Blair? More of the same at the "Paper of Record."

National Review

"The hotshot LeDuff is now in hot water over his cribbing of anecdotes from someone else's book about kayaking down the Los Angeles River for his own Page One fluff story about — you guessed it! — kayaking down the Los Angeles River. An embarrassing correction published in the New York Times on Dec. 8 explained:

An article last Monday about the Los Angeles River recounted its history and described the reporter's trip downriver in a kayak. In research for the article, the reporter consulted a 1999 book by Blake Gumprecht, 'The Los Angeles River: Its Life, Death, and Possible Rebirth.' Several passages relating facts and lore about the river distilled passages from the book. Although the facts in those passages were confirmed independently-through other sources or the reporter's first hand observation-the article should have acknowledged the significant contribution of Mr. Gumprecht's research."

It doesn't sound nearly as bad as Blair or Glass, but it doesn't sound good, either.

Former Gov. George Ryan indicted

Chicago Tribune

"What we're alleging in the indictment is basically the state of Illinois was for sale."

The clean record of Illinois politics is smeared by the abberation that is George Ryan.

Re-Enactment of Wright Brothers Flight Fails

Washington Post

Ha! The Wright brothers' plane was so old and poorly designed (by today's standards) that weather delayed the flight at least a day. We all know that's unheard of in this day and age. My, how far we've come.

UPDATE: But the Wright brothers' efforts shouldn't viewed as inspiring, of course, because the were looking to make a profit, and even (horrors!) tried to enforce a valid patent! So says this NY Times op-ed.

U.S., Central American Nations Reach Trade Deal

Washington Post

Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras, prepare to be oppressed by new jobs and an improved economy.

Chirac Wants Religious Attire Banned in Public Schools

New York Times

Chirac's inability to tolerate minor differences between people is simply amazing. Chirac feels all religious expression must be snuffed out in order for everyone to get along. It's like "don't ask don't tell" for anything too controversial, too unequal.


"In his speech, Mr. Chirac acknowledged the alienation of France's Muslim youth and the need to do more to bring them into the mainstream. 'I share the feeling of incomprehension, of disarray and sometimes even of revolt by those young French people - immigrants by origin - whose job applications go into the garbage because of the sound of their names, and who are too often faced with discrimination when they want to find housing or even to get into a place of recreation,' he said."

Chirac's answer to this problem is to bring immigrants "into the mainstream" by hiding their differences, rather than making everyone else simply deal with them (and perhaps, in time, appreciate them). The only thing that needs to be snuffed out is Chirac's attitude, and the attitudes of those who support this ban.

UPDATE: Volokh Conspirator Jacob Levy has more to say here, and Opinionjournal has an editorial here entitled: Veiled Threat: Jacques Chirac courageously takes on little girls in head scarves.

Thurmond Kin Admits Payments: Nephew Acknowledges His Role as 'Pass-Through' to Mixed-Race Daughter

Washington Post

The way Strom's family is spinning this is pretty sickening, if you ask me. They talk of the love between Strom and the child, and the mutual respect that led to her keeping quiet. The illegitimate child angle isn't good enough reason to keep it hush-hush - Strom's public persona was hardly pure. I think the reason they kept it quiet for so long was simply because she's half-black. I think the damage from that angle was too politically damaging (or perhaps simply too personally embarrassing) for Strom to live up to. Most of the time, political cover-ups are par-for-the-course. Here, it reeks of cowardice and bigotry to me.

U.S. Appeals Court Backs Some Medical Pot

Washington Post

This was expected, given that Judge Pregerson (of "if I don't like Supreme Court opinions, I'll ignore them" fame) and Judge Paez (of "if I don't like old voting machines, I'll delay an entire election" fame) were on the panel.

I'm not saying medical pot is bad. I'm just saying (as I've said before) that if you get any combination of judges Goodwin, Ferguson, Reinhardt, Pregerson, Paez, or Thomas on a panel, expect to see something interesting, if not at odds with current trends (or some would say, law).

Howard Bashman notes that this decision is a victory for Volokh conspirator Randy Barnett, who has been working on this case for some time.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

You know you might be subject to a bill of attainder when . . .

. . . there's a law with your name on it, as this DC Circuit opinion confirms. Bills of attainder are prohibited by Art. I, Sec. 9 of the Constitution. A leading modern case on bills of attainder is United States v Lovett, 328 US 303 (1946), for anyone who's interested. (from How Appealing)

Where There's Smoking Gun, There's Fire

New York Times

Fun article on The Smoking Gun. I don't know how they get all that great stuff, but I'm glad they're out there, and not too tainted by their Court TV affiliation. Check out their documents on the child saying "gay" controversy here. (from How Appealing)

And speaking of the "gay" controversy, Eugene Volokh has a follow up here.

Appeals Panel Hears Arguments On Judge

Howard Bashman describes his attendance at this proceeding here. It involved a mandamus hearing in an asbestos case.

A good number of recusal motions come from asbestos cases, both because of their length (they can run for a decade or more) and the need for judges to inform themselves through outside consultation. I wrote a bit on the plight of Third Circuit District Judge James McGirr Kelly in a paper you can read here. Apparently, he "forgot" that he was the guest of honor in an asbestos conference funded by one of the parties to an asbestos case before him. He even approved the release of funds for the conference.

The New Republic Primary

Just found a cool blog feature on the Democratic candidates here at The New Republic website. The bloggers grade the daily activities of the candidates.

I would blog lots of stuff from TNR (for intellectual diversity sake if nothing else), but much of their site is subscription only. Anyone know of a great free left-leaning news analysis site, besides the New York Times and Washington Post editorial pages? Ha ha.

Breaux Will Not Run for New Term: Senator Hands Democrats Setback

Washington Post

The numbers are starting to look real good for the Republicans in the 2004 Election on the Senate end.

Of the 19 Democratic seats up in 2004, 11 are in play as a practical matter. Of these, Florida (Bob Graham vacating), Georgia (Zell Miller vacating), Louisiana (John Breaux vacating), North Carolina (John Edwards vacating), and South Carolina (Fritz Hollings, vacating) are likely to go Republican. I give even-money to Nevada (Harry Reid defending). I think California (Boxer defending), North Dakota (Bob Dorgan, who?, defending), South Dakota (Daschle defending), Washington (Patty Murray defending), and Wisconsin (Russ Feingold defending) are going to stay with the Democrats. Knowing my fellow Washingtonians, I'd be surprised if they'd vote for an Eastern Washington-type, Boxer has weak opposition, Daschle is the most powerful Democrat on the Hill, and Russ Feingold is a lovable rogue. I don't know who the hell Bob Dorgan is.

Anyway, that's a likely gain for the Republicans of 5 seats, possibly 6, 7-8 if they're lucky.

The Republicans have 15 seats up in 2004, and 7 are vulnerable. Of these, I only see 1 likely to go Democratic, the Fitzgerald seat in Illinois. Chicagoans don't like Republicans, and if they feel strongly enough about the Presidential election, they'll drown out the rest of the state, as they often do. The other 6, Alaska, Colorado, Kentucky, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania all are iffy. Alaskans don't like Democrats, even if Lisa Murkowski doesn't deserve to be there. The only issue in Colorado is whether Ben Nighthorse Campbell vacates or not. If he doesn't, that's a lock. I think Bunning is pretty safe in Kentucky - he's an ex-baseball player for goodness sake. Kit Bond in Missouri is a nobody, but Town Hall seems to think he'll have nobodies running against him, and tie goes to the incumbent. I think Oklahomans could go either way, I don't know anything about Don Nickles' potential successors. Arlen Specter is a Senate institution, and with Santorum's support, I don't see him going anywhere.

That's a likely gain of 1 for the Democrats, 2-3 if they're lucky, and 4-5 if they are very lucky, like if the Saddam we caught turns out to be Ed Gillespie in a slightly-fat suit.

In the end, my prediction is the Republicans have a net gain of 3 seats, making the Senate 54-46 Republican. Not filibuster proof, but with a little buffer zone against defectors.

And the House is a lock, of course, at 228-205 Republican.

The Campaign of Hate and Fear: Some of my fellow Democrats are unpatriotic, by Orson Scott Card


A few reasons to note this op-ed. First of all, it's written by a sci-fi writer. Second, he's from Washington state (Richland, to be exact, the nation's largest repository of waste from nuclear weapons), and third, he's a Democrat (if you couldn't tell from the title). He doesn't seem to like many Democratic positions, however. Check out this op-ed on diversity.

The Bad Candidates Series: Forget primaries and Super Tuesday, let's use computers to figure out the Democratic nominee, BCS-style, by Bill Whalen

Weekly Standard

Check out the results. Seems right to me.

True Lies - Shades of Clintonism in California, by Andrew Peyton Thomas

National Review

The author is refering to the California budget compromise, which the LA Times covered here. Other National Review guys have been complaining about the Schwarzenegger deal as well.

I think this is a good start. Don't worry about it Arnie. You can't please everybody, and only pleasing National Review types won't get you very far in California.

Music Recommendation

The Mars Volta, De-Loused at the Comatorium. Weird, but in a good way. Flea on bass. They're like an art-prog version of Tool.

High Court Will Review Ruling On Cheney Task Force Records

Washington Post

Should be interesting. The article is written by Charles Lane (he covers much of the Post's legal stuff), who is a leading character in Shattered Glass. It was good. Even Anakin Skywalker was tolerable. You can read an interview with Lane about the movie here.

UPDATE: William Safire has an op-ed on the Cheney case here.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Presidents Remade by War, by Thomas L. Friedman

New York Times

Friedman says that Bush, like Lincoln, found a higher moral purpose for war as it progressed. Lincoln's was the abolition of slavery. Bush's is international liberalism.

I'm not sure if Friedman's right on this. In 1862 Lincoln said:

"My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that."

I don't think Lincoln's opinion changed much. I'm similarly suspicious that Bush's policy is driven by his moral purpose. I think it's a nice side-effect, but security is still the primary thrust of the war on terror. Otherwise, other Arab dictatorships should be next on the hit list, and I don't think countries like Saudi Arabia are worried that much. They don't threaten us, we don't attack them, even if under the surface many in the country hate us, and government isn't a model for for democracy.

Candidates Celebrate First and Worry Second

New York Times

"Even though it had been anticipated to some extent, the early morning news from Iraq seemed to shock the candidates and their aides, and left several expressing grudging admiration at what one described as Mr. Bush's continued good luck. They spent the day trying to applaud the capture while trying not to abandon their criticism of Mr. Bush's management of the war in Iraq as well as their attacks upon one another.

The strains this created were evident on Sunday. Mr. Kerry's press secretary, Stephanie Cutter, sent an e-mail message to news organizations listing remarks Dr. Dean had made over the past six months that she said demonstrated that his opposition to the war was 'politically driven.'"

I've also noticed Dean's campaign seems uniquely "politically driven," as opposed to being "losing the nomination" driven.
I've changed the font size on this site because I post so damn much. Comment on this post if you don't like it - I'm receptive to suggestions.

UPDATE: I've also decided to do titles correctly. Why didn't I do this before? Because I didn't know I could. Fault me, not Blogger - the fact I can use this site at all means Blogger must be very intuitive.

New Tale in Legalized Las Vegas Vice

New York Times

The investigation was called "Operation G-Sting." Really.

Barney Cam Is 'Reloaded' for a Christmas Sequel From the White House

New York Times

I like the part where Ari Fleischer is playing cards with Barney and Andy Card's like, "and you're playing with Ari Fleischer! He doesn't even work here anymore!" The video can be viewed here.

I'm not sure this video beats Clinton's lame-duck video, but the Bush people will probably have 4 more years to refine their technique.

King Statue, a Unity Symbol, Severely Tests the Dream

New York Times


"The moment the statue went up, people started grumbling, especially residents in the mostly black neighborhood where it was placed. For some, the statue's pose seemed 'arrogant' and the face did not look like Dr. King's. And worse, some said, the sculptor who made it is white.

'We need an artist who can relate,' said Kimberle Evans, one of the residents who is pushing for a new statue by a black artist."

They're right that the statute doesn't look much like Dr. King. But why isn't that the end of it? The artist sucks. Get a better artist. The bigotry underlying these critiques is disgusting.
I've noticed all of this site's comments are gone. I can't fault Blogout, because they do this for free, and mistakes happen. Seems like they've fixed the problem, so it shouldn't happen again.

Lieberman Is Working to Capitalize on Sympathy

New York Times

This is beginning to become the Democratic candidates' theme.

A Supreme Court Infused With Pragmatism

New York Times

Apparently it's pragmatic to decide cases based upon your "political antennae" and ignore the First Amendment.

And if the Supreme Court really is "infused with pragmatism," maybe Judge Posner, the leading authority on legal pragmatism, should be sitting on it.

The article also quotes Rick Hasen of Electionlawblog. Quotes from bloggers are becoming very common, which is very cool.

Harvard Scholar to Lead California Law School

New York Times

Straight from top advisor of the Dean campaign to dean of Boalt. I don't think anyone will notice the difference.

When Focus Shifted Beyond Inner Circle, U.S. Got a Vital Clue

Washington Post


"Drawing on the effort in Afghanistan to capture bin Laden, U.S. military forces and the CIA formed a task force devoted exclusively to finding Hussein and his top allies.

Called Task Force 121, it is an interagency team of CIA paramilitaries and 'black,' or unacknowledged, Special Operations forces."

Unacknowledged, except that they're called "Task Force 121."

Bush Economic Aide Says Government Lacks Vision

Washington Post

He's not saying the Bush administration lacks vision. He's saying bureaucracy lacks vision. Quite a revelation, but I think Weber beat him to it.

Halliburton Unit Probed for Possible Overbilling of U.S.

Washington Post

Little-noted paragraph of this story:

"Halliburton didn't profit from that differential, officials said. 'This isn't money that went to the company,' said Larry DiRita, the Pentagon's top spokesman. Rather, he said, the money the Pentagon believes was overcharged went to a private Kuwaiti company that is a subcontractor on the contract."

Call them evil because they mishandled a Kuwaiti subcontractor. But don't call them evil because they're lining their pockets fraudulently with taxpayer money.

UPDATE: Byron York on National Review has an explanation here.

Powell has prostate cancer surgery



"He will be on a reduced schedule while he recovers from the operation, " said Boucher.

His doctor limited him to 2 continents a day, rather than the usual 5-7.

Get better, Colin.

Imminent flu epidemic lengthens vaccine lines


...causing everyone to catch the flu from each other as they wait.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Without Firing a Shot, U.S. Forces Detain Deposed Leader - NY Times

Not just any deposed leader, but Saddam. How great is that? He was in a hole in Tikrit. Man, I wish I'd thought of looking there.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Blogging at the airport: Ok, so things have been a little slow here the last couple of days. But we have an excuse: Ben and I were in the midst of finals. But now we're done. So more is coming!

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Check this one out:

"I work in a department of about 150 people for the University of California, Davis. We have been told that we can't even call it a 'Holiday' party any longer. One sole kook decided that the word "holiday" implies religion and whined to our dean that the word offended her because of that. The dean promptly caved and told us that our party was now being called the 'Annual' party.

I would love to hear anyone who can top that. This has to rank pretty high on the ridiculousness meter."

Master/Slave, now this. California's not doing so good. (from The Corner)
Well, it's 3:30 in the morning, so I might as well stop studying and start blogging!


...that's all I've got. Goodnight.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Reaction to Iraq Exclusion: Anger, Amazement - CNN

Countries that don't support the war in Iraq can't get rebuilding contracts.

I liken this to class actions. You opt-out of the class, you don't get the big settlement. That's the price you pay for not taking the risk of going to trial. It's not pettiness, it's fairness.

Some people would just say, "to the victors go the spoils." But that's less fun.

UPDATE: My example is inaccurate - we're actually nicer than that. You can join the class after-the-fact and still get the settlement (that is, if you join the coalition now, you can bid for the contracts). For other countries to critize this deal, they must think bidding on reconstruction contracts is a fundamental right or something. I know France has more entitlements than the Rich Girls, but c'mon.
Supreme Court Upholds Political Money Law - Washington Post

Time to see how I did. I'm going to go by the Post's article, because I don't have time to read a 300+ page opinion with a final exam looming in a couple hours.

A month ago, I made these predictions:

"But I do have a prediction: Mostly a victory for BCRA."

I'd say that's about right, given the headline.

"Only Kennedy, Thomas, and Scalia will dissent to most parts."


"In addition to Stevens and O'Connor, Justices David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer signed the main opinion. Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas dissented on most issues."

I was basically wrong here. The Chief Justice decided to reconsider his views, apparently. He signed-on to Buckley, Nixon, and Austin (three recent major state campaign finance decisions), and did not vote to overrule Buckley in Colorado Republican II. I figured he'd find most of the BCRA a corrective measure for the flaws Buckley's shown over time.

But, more importantly, Justice O'Connor, a dissenter in Austin, found independent expenditure restrictions ok this time around. Looks like she found just about everything ok, in fact. That made the difference.

"Everyone will get rid of the contribution restrictions for minors."

The Post edited this out of the article after I refreshed, but the Court did strike this down.

"6-3 on soft money questions."

5-4, except "Swing voter Kennedy struck a compromise on one portion of the law. He said he would vote to uphold a soft money ban only as it applies to federal candidates and officeholders."

I expected The Chief Justice to be number 6, not Kennedy.

"Kennedy will at least dissent to the 'electioneering communications' definition, but probably the whole ad-restriction regime too."

Can't tell from the Post, but Rick Hansen's Electionlawblog says Kennedy dissented to this part.

"Everyone will uphold the disclosure stuff."

Looks like mostly 8-1, with Thomas dissenting.

"Opinion might be a bit of a mess due to all of the different issues to cover."

Could've been worse.

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